The Witness Tree Project

This is a poetic approach by a wonderful photographer to the deeply troubling climate change happening all around us. Like photographer Edward Curtis’s witness of the encroaching elimination of the Native American tribes at the turn of the 20th century, Carolyn Monastra’s witness of our endangered environment both celebrates and holds a mirror to what we could lose.

             – Rene Lynch, curator  


The Witness Tree is a photography project about the effects of climate change around the world. From the melting ice of Antarctica to the wild fires of Australia to the encroaching deserts of Inner Mongolia, I am drawn to precious and precarious places that mark the shifting boundaries between nature and the effects of our not-so-natural disasters.

My artwork is driven by the emerging dialogue between people who are rooted to their lands, but are (sometimes) innocently uprooted from them. Over the past five years, I photographed in 19 U.S. States, 17 countries and on every continent for The Witness Tree project. I have met and interviewed locals and climate experts about their experiences and their hopes for our changing world.

Although many of the places I visited were beautiful, the stories were not: I heard tales of loss of life, property, and valuable natural resources. But, in addition to photographing the negative impacts of climate change on our world, I have also documented the inspiring actions taken by individuals and communities who are working to fight climate change and other environmental issues. These people and their actions instill a sense of optimism in me. For the IPCUK, the primary focus of my exhibit will be on these Solutions including several permaculture farms and Transition Towns.


Carolyn Monastra is an artist, educator and activist based in the United States.  Her earliest work with photography involved taking photographs of people on the street and imagining their stories. This attraction to story and image fueled her education: She received a BA in English Literature from Fordham University and an MFA in photography from The Yale School of Art. For the past fifteen years her work has focused on creating and discovering mystery in the natural world. Artist residencies at The Djerassi Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, and the Saltonstall Foundation have given her inspirational environments in which to create her work.

After observing and photographing calving icebergs during an artist residency in Iceland, Carolyn conceived the idea for The Witness Tree project, to chronicle what she sees as the most important story unfolding across our planet. This ongoing project is her effort to honor and preserve the beauty of places affected by climate change.

In 2012, Carolyn was selected by The Climate Reality Project to become one of their Climate Leaders. Other honors and awards include a production grant from the Puffin Foundation, a travel grant from the English Speaking Union, and a multi-media fellowship from BRIC. Her work is in the Marguiles Collection in Miami and has been exhibited in venues across the United States and in China and Northern Ireland. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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